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Europe-Africa routes heavily concentrated across a few points

4-Oct-2011

Africa, once carved up by European powers, retains air links reminiscent of those historic ties. Even so, in too much of the continent, service remains spotty. The CAPA routes tool breaks African searches into four categories: North, South, East and West/Central. But in terms of seat offers available, the real division is between North Africa, those countries bordering the Mediterranean – and everything else. This examination will utilise this format, beginning with everything else.

A troubled past, a troubled present

Most former African colonies only received their independence in the post-war period and many not until the 1960s. The new nations bore the boundaries set during colonial rule, and many, if not most, were inconsistent with tribal and cultural ties. Additionally, infrastructure was built along colonial, rather than continental needs, resulting in few cross-border links. Aviation was, in many cases, the only practical means of transport, and even well into the late 20th century, the easiest route from west to east was via Europe.

Though rich in natural resources, much of Africa remains mired in a poverty that creates a limited market for traffic from the continent. Additionally, due to distances, large aircraft are needed, but the seating capacity of these aircraft is often far in excess of the traffic demand. As a result, frequency is spotty, competition is limited and fares are often very high.

Operational costs also tend to be very high as carriers must sometimes make sizable investments in order to bring facilities up to acceptable standards. Brussels Airlines reported that a year’s preparation was required before service to Kigali could begin.

Routes Europe-West/Central Africa with more than 3000 weekly seats: 26-Sep-2011 to 02-Oct-2011

1

LHR

London Heathrow

LOS

Lagos Murtala Muhammed

10,906

2

LHR

London Heathrow

ACC

Accra Kotoka

4960

3

AMS

Amsterdam Schiphol

LOS

Lagos Murtala Muhammed

4956

4

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

LOS

Lagos Murtala Muhammed

4914

5

LHR

London Heathrow

ABV

Abuja International

4910

6

AMS

Amsterdam Schiphol

ACC

Accra Kotoka

4596

7

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

DKR

Dakar Yoff

4566

8

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

ABJ

Abidjan Felix Houphouet Boigny

4566

9

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

BKO

Bamako

3448

10

FRA

Frankfurt

LOS

Lagos Murtala Muhammed

3360

11

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

DLA

Douala

3168

12

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

LBV

Libreville

3162

13

FRA

Frankfurt

ABV

Abuja International

3094

14

LIS

Lisbon Lisboa

RAI

Praia Francisco Mendes

3076

15

BRU

Brussels

DKR

Dakar Yoff

3030

Routes Europe-East Africa with more than 3000 weekly seats: 26-Sep-2011 to 02-Oct-2011

1

ORY

Paris Orly

RUN

Saint Denis de la Reunion

15,168

2

LHR

London Heathrow

NBO

Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta

13,440

3

AMS

Amsterdam Schiphol

NBO

Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta

8518

4

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

MRU

Mauritius Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam

7674

5

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

RUN

Saint Denis de la Reunion

6848

6

FRA

Frankfurt

ADD

Addis Ababa Bole

4750

7

LHR

London Heathrow

MRU

Mauritius Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam

4460

8

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

TNR

Antananarivo

3358

9

IST

Istanbul Ataturk

NBO

Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta

3048

Routes Europe-sub Sahara with more than 3000 weekly seats: 26-Sep-2011 to 02-Oct-2011

1

LHR

London Heathrow

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

20,284

2

FRA

Frankfurt

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

11,550

3

LIS

Lisbon Lisboa

LAD

Luanda 4 de Fevereiro

9538

4

LHR

London Heathrow

CPT

Cape Town

7588

5

CDG

Paris Charles De Gaulle

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

7532

6

AMS

Amsterdam Schiphol

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

4956

7

MUC

Munich

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

4186

8

AMS

Amsterdam Schiphol

CPT

Cape Town

3540

9

ZRH

Zurich

JNB

Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo

3444

10

FRA

Frankfurt

WDH

Windhoek Hosea Kutako

3336

Only 34 Routes above 3000 weekly seats

As a result of these various factors, there are only 34 routes between Europe and all of sub-Saharan Africa that generate more than 3000 seats per week. And the selection of African endpoints is very limited.

The 10 routes to Southern Africa arrive at only four airports with 89% of the seats destined for South Africa. Gaborone, capital of Botswana, a nation of over 2 million people has 105 flights per week calling at its airport and all but a handful go to Johannesburg. Lusaka, capital of Zambia, but for three weekly flights to London, has only limited flights to other points in Africa.

In East Africa, one third of the nine flights with over 3000 weekly seats to Europe land in Nairobi with 37% of the seat offer. Lagos accounts for more than a quarter of the West/Central endpoints and 44% of all the region’s seats on the list go to Nigeria.

There is certainly nothing amiss in these numbers. South Africa has the largest middle class in sub-Saharan Africa, Nairobi is the key city in East Africa and starting point for much of the region’s tourism, and Lagos is the largest city of Africa’s most populous nation. If anything, the numbers, compared to the populations, are amazingly small.

Alliances also thin on the ground

Only two sub-Saharan airlines currently belong to an alliance, soon to be three when Ethiopian joins Star. Of the eventual three, two – SAA, and Ethiopian – are Star members with Kenya Airways a participant in SkyTeam. British Airways’ subsidiary in South Africa, Comair, provides oneworld with some connectivity as an affiliate.

Hub-to-hub links within alliances

SkyTeam

oneworld

Star

AMS-NBO

LHR-JNB

FRA-JNB

 

LHR-CPT

FRA-ADD

   

ZRH-JNB

In general, alliances play a minimal role in African routes, though there is discussion amongst Star members, including Egyptair and SN Brussels, to jointly establish a West African carrier that would represent the alliance in the region.

A Turkish Airlines experiment

Given the difficulties encountered in “right-sizing” equipment for African service, Turkish Airlines has ordered a fleet of B737-800s and B737-900s that will be specially configured to deal with long-thin routes, allowing Turkish Airlines to increase frequencies with aircraft more sized to the need but outfitted in a manner consistent with larger, widebody aircraft.

And again, Emirates

But the European carriers are all losing ground to Emirates, currently operating to 15 sub-Saharan and Indian Ocean points. Emirates is the only long-haul direct carrier to Durban, supplying 27,226 seats each week between Dubai and three cities in South Africa. To Nairobi, Emirates flies 11,357 seats per week, second only to London. Like India, the Gulf airlines may be reformatting travel patterns between not only Europe, but also other global points, and Africa.


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